What are you too old for?
Where is your mind going when you read that question?
Things that you feel you cannot do anymore and you kind of miss them, things that you won’t tolerate anymore in your life?
We all react differently to ageing. Certain aspects feel liberating, other limiting…
On ageing, birthdays, sailing and liberation…
I’m always puzzled by people who explain anything they cannot do by their age.
Maybe because very early on in my 20’s, when I was living on my sailing-boat, I often had sailing neighbours waaaay older than me; many people wait until they are retired and kids are gone to go live their sailing dream. So I met a lot of people in their 60s and 70s in really good shape and with a dynamic mindset.
One time a friend of mine came to visit me on my boat — he was approaching 30 — and he was struggling to get on board. To his defence, it wasn’t straightforward in that harbour, no ladder, you had to put one foot o a rope and get yourself onboard. Nothing crazy either, all my old neighbours did it without breaking a sweat. But my friend struggled because it wasn’t used to it.
What came up in his mind, though, was:”Oh, my, it’s not pretty to age.” And everything in me was screaming, “You’re not even 30!”.
The problem was not his age. But he was already imposing himself limitations that he didn’t need, or really have, for that matter. And that’s the whole thing about ageing that makes me really crazy sometimes, because people limit themselves based on an idea that society has on their age.
Again and again, I hear and read opinions about what you can do, or rather cannot do anymore over 30, 40, etc. Recently I read a take on travelling over 40 that was so radically limiting, that I do hope his author will change his mind before he hits 40 himself, or he is preparing himself for a sad life full of minimum 4 stars hotels because of his health problems and naps in the afternoons, that apparently he is bound to have!
But like most thing, your beliefs create your reality and there are lots of studies right now about ageing and the influence of culture on ageing, especially memory.
Depending on where we are born, we look at elderly as nice but slightly crazy people going back to childhood, or wise and experienced humans.
Choose your model
So I would say, choose for yourself. Whatever society tells you about what is appropriate for your age, you’re the one living your life.
Not only within my neighbours, but also my teachers, I have very positive role models of wonderful older humans, that I am always happy to talk about whenever someone feels limited by his/her age. So here are my favourites:
My Body-Mind-Centering teacher, Bonnie Bainbridge, was already in her 80s when I met her. I’ve never seen someone move with more grace and meaning than her. That was years ago, and she is still teaching.
As for Suzuki sensei, my Shiatsu teacher, it was somehow difficult to give him an age, he looked younger, but he was over 60… and he was beating us all every time we went for a run or intense workout. And by us, I mean a group between 20 and 40 something, healthy, and rather sporty. He had more force and more endurance than any of us.
Another one of my favourites is Tao Porchon-Lynch. She died not so long ago, but this lady started ballroom dancing when she was in her 80s, and taught yoga until she was 100 years old. Yes, you read right. You can find lots of video of her, especially her amazing TED talk.
So age has little to do with how you feel. How you perceive yourself is the difference that makes the difference. Not only when you are “old” (whatever number that suggests to you), but more than anything, because no matter your age, how you perceive yourself is how you treat yourself.
It you see yourself as healthy, or a sportsperson, you will live in a way that aligns with that. And you won’t wait to feel sick to wake up and try to change things.
Older people in good shape are persons who cared about being in good shape all their life. Some woke up late, but what you see today is the result of the years before that.
So how do you want to be when you’re older? Start now! Whatever you are afraid to lose with age, or are noticing it is changing already… Whether it is balance, flexibility, eye-sight… Do something now. Make use of it. Explore it. Have fun with it.
And don’t listen to anyone but yourself
One of the things I am more surprised as I age, is how others, especially younger people, perceive me. I know it tells more about how they think, than it does about me. And I do hope they change their mindset before they are older, so they don’t conform to the limiting ideas of what they can or not do then.
My wish for you: choose for yourself, no matter how loud society tells you what it is to be your age… You know better, this is your life!
There is nothing you cannot do – Tao Porchon-Lynch at TEDx Columbia
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(Intro music for the podcast: “Tiny people”, by Alexei De Bronhe )